Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fun with Entomology & Etymology

Last week the world was introduced to a spider named Neil Young. Jason Bond, a biologist at East Carolina University, discovered a new species of trapdoor spider and chose to name it Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi after the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter. The article notes that earlier this year a whirligig beetle was named after Roy Orbison, which naturally got me thinking cover songs...

I remember Harrison Ford had something named after him (two, it turns out: Calponia harrisonfordi, a spider, and Pheidole harrisonfordi, an ant) so I figured there would be a few more musicians with bugs named after them. I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, but of course there's an extensive wikipedia list on "animals named after celebrities". There are so many it's hard to pick favourites, but I was amused by Strigiphilus garylarsoni (a louse), Arthurdactylus conandoylei (a pterosaur), Avahi cleesei (a lemur), and Psephophorus terrypratchetti (an extinct turtle). Here are some choice cover songs accompanied by an artist's representation of each species.

The Shins - Harvest [originally by Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi]
Rufus Wainwright & Chris Stills - Harvest [originally by Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi]
Discovered in Jefferson County, Alabama, the new species was actually announced in a December 2007 paper co-written by Jason Bond and Norman I. Platnick entitled "Taxonomic review of the trapdoor spider genus Myrmekiaphila," no doubt a thrilling read. In fact, the paper describes 6 new species, though these other critters drew the rock star short straw and were named less prominently: Myrmekiaphila coreyi, M. minuta, M. jenkinsi, M. millerae, and M. howelli. Regarding our friend M. neilyoungi, the paper states, "The specific name is a patronym in honor of Mr. Neil Young, in recognition of his social activism for peace over the course of his distinguished musical career." Males of Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi are recognizable by "the presence of an elongate, well-defined ledge on the palpal tibia, which is excavated retro-laterally (best seen in ventral view)"-- which, of course, instantly evokes the music of Neil Young.

Chris Isaak - Only the Lonely [originally by Orectochilus orbisonorum]
At a Roy Orbison tribute concert in Tempe, Arizona earlier this year, entomologist Quentin Wheeler of Arizona State University announced a new species of whirligig beetle named for Roy and his widow, Barbara. The ending of a species name with "orum" indicates it was named after a couple. The beetle looks as if it's wearing a tuxedo with a shiny black top and, um, a clear cuticle underbelly that allows its white internal tissues to be seen. Wheeler also presented an original piece of whirligig beetle artwork to Barbara who was in attendance. In 2005, Wheeler also co-discovered 65 new species of slime-mold beetles some of which were named after Darth Vader, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, though perhaps not for the reasons you'd immediately think.

Stone Temple Pilots - Get Up Offa That Thing [originally by Funkotriplogynium iagobadius]
The godfather of soul is also one funky mite. In 1985, Asok Kumar Datta named a genus of mite Funkotriplogynium setting the stage for Owen Seeman and Dave Walter, who in 1997 named a new mite species Funkotriplogynium iagobadius: iago meaning James and badius meaning brown. Oh, those sneaky arcaologists! Stone Temple Pilots pay tribute with an unlikely acoustic cover.

The Busters - We Are the Champions [originally by Queen]
McFly - Don't Stop Me Now [originally by Queen]
A distinctive cirolanid isopod from the coral reefs of Zanzibar was named Cirolana mercuryi for Freddie Mercury who was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Described by discoverer Niel Bruce as "arguably Zanzibar's most famous popular musician and singer," one immediately wonders what other Zanzibar musicians or singers were even in consideration.

Shooter Jennings - Walk of Life [originally by The Dire Straits]
In 2001, a team of paleontologists led by University of Utah's Scott Sampson discovered Masiakasaurus knopfleri, named for Dire Straits guitarist and lead singer Mark Knopfler because the team had a tendency to find new specimens while listening to the Dire Straits out in the field. This countrified cover is served up by Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon Jennings, not to be mistaken for Happy Gilmore nemesis Shooter McGavin.

Ben Folds Five - All Shook Up [originally by Preseucoila imallshookupis]
When Elvis sang "my friends say I'm acting as wild as a bug," I doubt he imagined someday a wasp would be named after him and that very hit song. In 2004, entomologist Matthew Buffington of the University of California did just that, honoring the King with the naming of a new species of gall wasp. Do wasps have hips? Ben Folds channels Elvis through incomprehensible mumblings in this goofy cover of All Shook Up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

cool post!